February 16, 2017
The NBA trade deadline is still a week away, but there were already some notable deals that happened this week. The Sixers made news by removing Jahlil Okafor from the lineup on Saturday (due to “trade rumors” according to Brett Brown, who apparently refreshes Hoops Hype on the reg), not having him fly with the team on Monday, and then bringing him back last night in Boston.
The whole thing is uncomfortable, particularly for Okafor. And according to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, some people around the NBA are speculating the move was a poker bluff from Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo:
The shelving of Okafor was likely meant to flush out the best offers around the league, sources speculate. It’s not uncommon for teams to use leaks to stir interest. The Nuggets and Blazers weren’t pursuing Okafor. The Bulls likely aren’t either. No one is buying what Bryan Colangelo is selling: a one-dimensional center who can’t defend, rebound, or pass on a roster loaded with big men.
Everyone who follows Philadelphia sports knows about the Okafor situation, so let’s move on to how the latest rumors around the NBA affect the Sixers. And you know what, let’s start with some completed trades…
Orlando trades Serge Ibaka to Toronto: Orlando GM Rob Hennigan is on the hot seat, and the moves that turned Victor Oladipo and last year’s 11th pick into Terrence Ross and a 2017 pick in the late 20’s won’t help the ol’ job security. That said, getting a first-round pick in a trade for a player who was strongly rumored to be bolting in free agency this summer was fine.
Ross is a rotation player and Ibaka didn’t bring much on defense this season, but the Magic take a hit in the standings down the stretch with this trade. For NBA Draft and lottery purposes, they become the fourth team (along with the Nets, Lakers, Suns) clearly with a leg up on the Sixers in Tankathon 2017.
Denver, Portland swap centers: The Nuggets get Mason Plumlee in exchange for Jusuf Nurkic and a first-round pick. If you’ll recall, but Denver and Portland were rumored to be in on the Okafor trade discussions Saturday night, per Hoops Hype’s Alex Kennedy:
Source: Jahlil Okafor was informed that the 76ers have had trade talks with the Bulls, Pelicans, Blazers and Nuggets. Discussions ongoing.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) February 12, 2017
Denver never made sense to me as a trade partner, as they should look to pair a plus defender next to the incredible Nikola Jokic (For that reason, Plumlee didn’t make much sense to me, either). Even if these two rumored suitors were in talks with the Sixers, this deal probably takes them off the Okafor trade market.
We’ll give some of the usual suspects (Carmelo Anthony, Jimmy Butler) that have been popping up in trade rumors a rest this week.
Zach Lowe wrote an informative piece on the Detroit Pistons, one in which he revealed the Pistons “quietly explored the trade market” for both Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond. Especially in Drummond’s case, it’s a good reminder that life can come at you fast in the NBA.
Lowe also provided a few pieces of information that concerns the Sixers. First off, could the Pistons and Pelicans be interested in a Jrue Holiday-Reggie Jackson trade?
If Payton doesn't float Van Gundy's boat, the Pistons could reunite with D.J. Augustin. Jrue Holiday could ignite another point guard shuffle if he indicates he won't re-sign in New Orleans; the Pelicans have kicked the tires on Jackson, league sources say, though nothing ever got serious.
The Sixers, of course, are rumored to be interested in bringing Jrue Holiday back to Philly in free agency. There were also rumors that they were targeting Holiday in a potential Okafor trade. At the end of Lowe’s deep dive, he brings up another established guard the Sixers could target this summer: Mr. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Barring a major surge, Detroit will face serious questions in the offseason. If the Nets, Sixers, or some other team with mega-room hits Caldwell-Pope with a max offer sheet, Detroit will probably shed someone to duck the luxury tax.
It depends on how the draft picks shake out, but it’s worth noting that Lowe, who is well-connected (these aren’t half-assed trade rumors), has at least pondered the possibility of the Sixers throwing money at a youngish veteran guard this summer multiple times.
Caldwell-Pope isn’t a perfect player — While his three-point shooting improved to 37.5 percent this season, his shooting inside the arc has regressed — but he’s going to get paid this offseason because he can really defend perimeter. And unlike Jackson and Drummond, the Pistons are actually better when KCP plays this season. The Sixers are going to have the cap space this summer, but a max deal for Caldwell-Pope will start at around $25.5 million (or 25 percent of the projected $102 million cap). So, you know, he won’t be cheap.
One last Pelicans note: Anthony Davis, who is under contract for three more years, had some strong words on staying in New Orleans:
"I don't plan on leaving, so make sure you write that down," Davis said when asked about trade speculation.
"I don't pay attention to (the rumors)," Davis said. "I don't know who said it or how it came about. I'm with the Pelicans right now."
Of all the potential Okafor destinations, New Orleans is the one that still seems most logical to me. Trading Alexis Ajinca and a lottery-protected first-round pick might not be the exact trade package, but you can at least see a bit of logic in pairing Okafor with Davis.
Lakers-Kings, aka “Hinkie Bowl VII,” was an entertaining bad basketball game. Despite Lou Williams catching fire late, the Kings escaped with a 97-96 win thanks to some late DeMarcus Cousins heroics:
That isn’t the outcome the Sixers want. And ever since that highly publicized hot start, the Lakers have been downright putrid since December 1st. By net rating, they’ve the worst team in the NBA during that span, even worse than Brooklyn. L.A. could very well look to trade Williams, per Kennedy:
On Tuesday, a general manager confirmed that the Lakers have, in fact, shopped Williams and seem likely to move him prior to the deadline.
As previously mentioned, the Lakers have a lot riding on this year’s lottery, so moving Williams increases the likelihood that they keep their 2017 and 2019 first-round picks, gives the younger backcourt players more minutes and brings in assets (such as another young player or a pick).
Lou Williams when asked about the trade speculation leading up to the deadline: "Just go out and hoop, let the powers that be deal with it."— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) February 15, 2017
Trading Williams, a short-term piece who has played extremely well this season, makes all the sense in the world for the Lakers.
Another name floated in that piece is Sacramento Kings guards Darren Collison, who has one year less on his contract than Williams. As we wrote about last week, Cousins is off the block and the Kings are actually only 1.5 games out of a playoff spot. The pick swap potential, once so promising, doesn’t look all that good right about now.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann